Review fertilizers distribution channels for farmers to benefit, Stakeholders urge FG
Stakeholders in the Agriculture sector from the South-West Zone have called for review of fertilizers distribution channels to enable farmers to benefit more from the Federal Government subsidised policy on the commodity.
In separate interviews with our correspondent in Osogbo, Ibadan, Ilorin, Abeokuta, Akure and Ado-Ekiti, they said on Tuesday that the involvement of middlemen, otherwise called off-takers, have been frustrating the government’s good intention.
In Osogbo, Alhaji Sulaiman Araokanmi, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Osun, said farmers in the state do not have access to the Federal Government subsidised fertilizers.
Araokanmi said that of his four years in office as the state chairman of the association, he had never seen subsidised fertilizers as claimed to be supplied to farmers by the government.
According to him, at a point, I went to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to solicit assistance for farmers in the state, but I was told that the subsidised fertilizers were not available.
He said that the promised subsidised Dangote fertilizers for farmers were not also available in the market.
Araokanmi said that farmers have been buying fertilizers directly from the open market through the middlemen, who were selling at exorbitant prices.
Also, Mr Folarin Akanni, a farm input dealer in Osogbo, said that prices of fertilizers rose because of the high exchange rate of Naira to Dollar.
Akanni said the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine had also affected the supply of fertilizers in Nigeria.
According to him, at the moment, only UREA fertilizers is available in the market and it was being sold for N18,500.
He said the NPK Golden, being the most popular and best used fertilizer, was no longer available in the market.
This, Akanni said, was last sold by dealers at a cost ranging from N26,000 to N27,000.
He said that the production of Dangote fertilizers had been halted for a while and were, therefore, not available in the market.
Also, Mrs Gbemisola Fayoyin, the Coordinating Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Osun, told NAN that high prices of fertilizers in the open market could worsen food insecurity in the country, if not checked.
Fayoyin said that government at all levels should focus on the chain of supply, rather than on the demand of the product, so as to check the activities of the middlemen.
According to her, when the chain of supply by manufacturers is weak, compared to the demand by farmers, there will be scarcity, which will, in turn, lead to middlemen extorting farmers.
In Ibadan, Mr Samuel Akinade, the Oyo State Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), said that with the Anchor Borrowers Programme, purchases could be made in bulk.
Akinade said that such bulk purchase could lead to a minimal reduction in price.
He, however, said that reduction in price did not mean the products would be sold lesser than they were sold during the last planting season.
According to him, the cost of fertilizers will continue to affect the prices of food commodities.
“The price cannot be controlled, because if we use organic fertilizers and the synthetic one is going up, it will affect the price of the organic one too, due to the cost of logistics.
“Support for farmers in the transportation of organic fertilizers will help farmers,” he said.
Akinade told NAN that synthetic fertilizers cost N15,000, while organic fertilizers were being sold at between N5,000 and N10,000.
Commenting, Mr John Olateru, the Oyo State Chairman of AFAN, said that the government could help by distributing the product directly to farmers through the association.
On the other hand, Olateru said that fertilizers could be purchased by the government and released directly to the farmers at subsidised rate.
“There is no country all over the world that leaves its farmers all alone; they are supporting them in one way or the other.
“If government’s intervention comes, it will reduce the cost of food commodities,” he said.
Reacting, the Oyo State Government said it has been assisting farmers to access fertilizers through the farmers’ associations, such as AFAN, via its Farmers’ Support Programme.
A Director in the state Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Tajudeen Adekola, said that government had embarked on the programme to support small-holder farmers from buying fertilizers at exorbitant prices.
Adekola said that the programme, which included provision of improved seedlings and farm implements to genuine farmers, was part of the government’s efforts to enhance food security.
He said that dealing with farmers’ associations would curb activities of fake farmers with the aim of accessing fertilizers at a control price to later sell to genuine farmers at an exorbitant price.
According to him, the ministry is keenly monitoring the distribution of fertilisers to farmers, so that the process will not be hijacked by wrong people.
He, however, advised farmers to join registered associations for them to be able to get fertilizers at subsidised prices from the government.
In Ilorin, a cross section of farmers called on the government at all levels to intervene in the sales and distribution of agricultural inputs to farmers across the country.
A farmer, Mr Bako Ayinde, said that activities of middlemen in the distribution of farm inputs had become frustrating and depriving farmers of bumper harvest.
Ayinde said that middlemen were only interested in profit-making and were fond of selling to the highest bidders.
“Government should select trustworthy men to handle the distribution of agricultural inputs.
“Even, officials of the Ministry of Agriculture are after colluding with the middlemen to inflate the prices of fertilizers and other inputs,” he said.
Another farmer, Mr Yinka Ige, said that fertilizers had become gold, with most farmers getting frustrated, having their money with them, yet unable to buy, because of the bottlenecks created by middlemen.
“You need to know some people before you can get what you want.
“Farmers are not happy with the way inputs are being shared and distributed,” he said.
In his comments, a rice farmer, Mr Taofic Usman, accussed the middlemen of diverting the available fertilizers and selling them at high rates.
Usman urged the government to come to their aid by ensuring strict monitoring and effective distribution.
Similarly, Mr Adebayo Sanusi, a farmer, alleged that some ministry officials and heads of farmers’ associations were standing as middlemen, selling fertilizers, meant to be distributed freely to farmers, at high prices.
He, therefore, urged the government to set up a committee to checkmate their activities, thus making sure that the fertilizers get to the real farmers.
A Consultant Agriculturist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Musiliu Ajia, called on the Federal Government to mandate the ministry officials to carry heads of different farmers’ associations along in the distribution of the commodity.
Ajia said this would ensure that the farmers, who truly needed the products, got them.
According to him, only the heads of the farmers’ associations can identify their members as true users of the fertilizers.
He said it would also help to curb the trend of middlemen selling the fertilizers at exorbitant prices.
In Abeokuta, Prof. Jimoh Olanite of the Department of Pasture and Range Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that no appreciable impact could be recorded with middlemen holding sway in the distribution arrangement.
Olanite called on the government to come up with an arrangement to enhance direct supply of fertilisers to the farmers.
According to him, this will p eliminate the hurdles and constraints often introduced by middlemen.
“Government must work hard in checking the activities of middlemen; but my fear is that whatever policy that the government comes up with to solve this problem, people will always find a way of circumventing it.
“I will advise that whatever the government wants to do, they should do it in such a way that farmers can get the inputs directly.
“This is because, as long as the product passes through some stages before it gets to the farmers, definitely profiteering will come in to restrict access.
“Let government dictate the price at which fertilizers should be sold to farmers and the deposit location should be closed to the farms in various local governments, instead of just one point at the state level, which could discourage the farmers,” he said.
Olanite also encouraged farmers to organise themselves into various commodity groups that the government could liase with and supply fertilisers to at determined prices.
“This will even encourage individual farmers to participate more in the activities of their groups if they realise they will get the items cheap from such source,” Olanite said.
Also, Mr Abiodun Ogunjimi, the Secretary, Ogun Chapter of AFAN, called for an effective monitoring system of the movement and distribution of the subsidised product.
“The government needs to come up with task force initiatives across the country to ensure that the products get to the desired destinations and sold at the subsidised prices.
“Punishments or sanctions should also be meted out to defaulting middlemen, to serve as deterent to those engaging in fraudulent practices.
“Middlemen are really making things difficult for the farmers, but there is nothing we can do about it than to keep patronising them, even when it is at the high rate, because we are not getting it directly from the government.
“Assuming most of us do benefit directly from the Federal Government’s subsidised fertilizers or inputs, middlemen will not have advantage over us.
“The fertilizer does not come to the farmers at subsidised rate. Most of us buy from the open market at exorbitant rate.
“We buy the fertilizer at the open market within the rate of N15,000 to N16,500, whether it is the Urea or NPK product,” he said.
Also, a farmer, Mr Akeem Olajuwon, urged the government to resuscitate various fertilizer blending plants across the country to boost the production of the product.
“One of the major causes of the hike in price of fertilizer is because demand is higher than supply.
“I believe that with increased productivity, supply will be more than the demand and the situation will naturally force the price down and fertilizers can then be more readily affordable and available to farmers,” he said.
In his reactions, Mr Johnson Ajibola, the Chairman, Youths Farmers’ Association, Ogun Chapter, stressed the need for farmers’ associations involvement in the development of agricultural policies by the government.
Ajibola called on the government to get farmers’ inputs through their leadership or associations, before critical decisions on agriculture, particularly on fertilizers, were taken.
“This will make the governments to better appreciate the challenges of farmers and help them factor such challenges into their policies for maximum impact and to achieve intended purposes,” he said.
In Akure, Mr Adetola Akinlua, the Administrative Secretary of Agriculture Inputs Supply Agency (AISA), Ondo State, said the only way to check the activities of middlemen was to have fertilizers and other inputs available in the store.
“As the agency in charge of procuring and distribution of agro inputs in the state, the only way we can regulate the activities of middlemen is to have all the inputs in our store, which we don’t have,” Akinlua said.
According to him, anybody that wants to sell at exorbitant price can be controlled.
“If we have the inputs, then, we can dictate the prices, so that if the farmers go to the shops to buy and the price is exorbitant, then, they can come to us and buy,” he said.
Also, Mr Abayomi Monilari, the President, Farmers’ Congress, Ondo State Chapter, called on the Federal Government to deal directly with the famers instead of middlemen in the distribution of fertilizers to secure food security in the nation.
Monilari, also the state Chairman of AFAN, urged the government not to politicise agriculture, saying that the effects, if they did, would be on the masses.
He said that middlemen, not only increase the price of fertilizer in the market, they also hoard it, making it scarce to the farmers.
“I will not be blaming the middlemen, rather I will blame the government, because if they had given it to the farmers directly, the exorbitant price of fertilizers in the market will not have been so.
“Government should deal directly with the farmers’ body, after all, AFAN is the national and apex body of the farmers.
“So, if it was given to the national body, it will get to the state, to the local government level and to the wards, even unit level, because they know themselves.
“Why should government call on the middlemen when we have a farmers’ body?
“The middlemen are there to make more profits; they are there on business and care less about the masses.
“However, if the government could deal with the farmers directly, then, they can say, ‘After all, I gave this to your people’.
“But, the moment the middlemen are involved, it is mere rubbish, because they are giving middlemen the opportunity to enrich themselves.
“So, for farmers to secure food security, food prices need to be reduced, and the government must imbibe the culture of dealing with real farmers, not the middlemen,” he said.
Similarly, an expert, Mr Bankole Aderemi, from Oba-Ile in Akure North Local Government Area of the state, described the purchase and distribution of fertilizers by the government at subsidised prices to farmers as a mere ruse.
Aderemi, also a tomato farmer, said that going by his practical experience on the field, fertilizers subsidy was just a “mere propaganda” .
According to him, if it existed at all, it was then being sabotaged by the powerful politicians.
“It is worrisome that Nigerian farmers bear the brunt of the government’s inability to control prices of farm inputs.
“The middlemen fix their prices as demand increases. For example, I bought NPK 15:15:15 at the rate of N12,000 late last year.
“It was increased to N17, 500 in January, 2022. Later in March, it was N24,000 and in April, N30,000.
“Now, in May that we have rising demand, due to the raining season, a bag of fertilizer costs N32,000, which may not stop here till the end of the season,” he said.
The expert said that the only way to check the anomalies and ensure the subsidy was implemented to the letter was to revive price control mechanism that would monitor activities of the middlemen.
“The price control mechanism board should be revived to monitor the activities of the middlemen and also have a way to receive feedback from the end-users of this product, which are basically the farmers, by having a database for farmers.
“Also, governments at all levels should be sincere and stop playing politics with what has to do with human life and existence.
“Because, without food security, there will be increase of sickness and disease and consequently, loss of lives,” he said.
However, in Ado-Ekiti, farmers appealed tothe three tiers of government to halt the activities of middlemen, in view of the negative implications of their activities on food security.
Describing the middlemen as unduly exploitative, a farmer, Mr Bimbo Ajisola, said urgent intervention of government was needed to ensure food security in the state, especially during the current rainy season.
He said that farmers were always at the mercy of middlemen, who, instead of farmers, make good profits.
Another farmer, Mr John Kolawole, described middlemen as the key problem of farmers, alleging that they took the chunk of the profit made in the planting and harvesting value chain.
“Middlemen are, to say the least, one of the major reasons many farmers are tired of continuing with the farming trade,” he said.
Commenting, Mr Oluropo Dada, Chairman of AFAN in Ido-Osi Local Government Area in Ekiti, appealed to the government to give out fertilizers directly to farmers and do away with the middlemen.
Dada said that farmers were no longer finding it comfortable buying fertilizers in the market, due to exorbitant prices.
The chairman regretted that many farmers had, either abandoned their farms, or had abandoned fertilizer to try alternative manure, such as cow and goat feaces, among others, for the soil.
“We no longer buy fertilizer for our farms, because it is too expensive for us to afford.
“For example, fertilizer that is meant to be given to us at a subsidised price, is now being sold for N15,000; it is unfair to us.
“We do not want the Federal Government to give out fertilizers through government officials or intermediaries anymore.
“Farmers from states and local governments have registered their names at the national level; so, the fertilizers should be given to us directly.
“We have a warehouse in Ido-Osi Local Government, where we can store the fertilizers.
“The government officials and other collaborators are the ones hijacking and selling to their agents in the market,” he said.
Similarly, Mr Olatunji Ayegbusi, the Chairman of Farmers’ Community Association in Ikole Local Government Area, said that the distribution of farm inputs, especially fertilizers, had been politicised.
Ayegbusi said that whenever the government disbursed farm inputs, such as fertilizers, through the state ministry, the officials would sell them, denied true farmers to have access to the commodity.
He, therefore, advised the government to always give such farm inputs to registered farmers’ associations and not to farmers, through government officials.
Meanwhile, the state Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Daramola Adeyemi, identified the policy issue on fertilizer and the market fall as major reasons for the high cost of fertilizers.
According to him, before the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Minister of Agriculture, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, government was involved in the procurement and distribution of fertilizers.
The policy, he said, however, later changed under Jonathan.
“The Federal Government disengaged in the procurement and distribution of fertilizer in the country, and then brought in the private sector to handle procurement and distribution.
“The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, introduced the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS) and under that scheme, government subsidised farm inputs.
“For instance, fertilizer was subsidised at 50 per cent under the scheme, in which farmers pay 50 per cent and government pays the rest 50 per cent.
“It was the agro dealers that were actively involved in the procurement and distribution; they will purchase it and bring it down to the level of the farmer.
“Farmers obtain, pay half of it and govenment pay the balance under the GESS policy,” he said.
According to him, after the regime of Jonathan, the Buhari-led administration studied the programme and discovered some things were not working well with the policy, and that it was not sustainable, thereby, suspending it.
He said under a new arrangement, government pegged fertilizer’s price at a particular rate.
“But the problem was that agro dealers, handling purchases and distribution, came up with production cost, which was different from state to state in Nigeria.
“Not all states have blending machines, hence, the disparity in the price of fertilizer, in spite of the fact that the price is pegged to a reasonable amount by the government.
“States that have blending machines procure cheaper fertilizers than states that do not have. For instance, Ekiti does not have a blending machine.
“They take the produce to Kaduna for blending and by the time it is blended and transported down here, the cost of transportation will be added, which makes for the high cost of fertilizers,” he said.
An agriculture expert, Mr James Ibitoye, said government needed to initiate a bottom-up approach, by registering farmers in their catchment areas.
Ibitoye said government should organise seminars for the farmers and make use of registered extension agents and facilities, getting and analysing feedback from farmers.
He said government should digitalise the distribution of farm inputs to farmers, alleging that most times, paper farmers take advantage of the subsidised fertilizers, reselling them to real farmers at exorbitant prices.
Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Government has assured that it would not allow anyone or group to sabotage its determined efforts at returning agriculture to its glorious years and boosting food production.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Olabode Adetoyi, said that the state government’s resolve to return the state to its status as the food basket of the nation, made it to adopt agriculture as one of the five pillars of the administration.
Adetoyi said with this in mind, the state government would protect farmers’ interest at all times.
He, therefore, urged the state farmers to continue to partner with the government, promising that the present administration would not fold its arms and watch farmers suffer unduly.
Adetoyi enjoined famers to step up patronage of government agro outlets to buy their inputs at control prices, so as not to fall into the hands of those allegedly sabotaging the process.